Read The Ghost Who Loved Me Online

Authors: Karolyn Cairns

The Ghost Who Loved Me (9 page)

BOOK: The Ghost Who Loved Me
5.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Elizabeth smiled despite herself at the visual of Edward cowering during James’ attack upon him. “That was quite mean of you.”

“What was mean was Edward sending you here,” James said as he pressed her once more. “Why was that? Come now, what did you do to the little pillow biter to make him banish you, my lady? I’ll not tell anyone, I can assure you.”

“I fail to see why any of that is your business,” Elizabeth protested indignantly.

“It was over a man, wasn’t it?” James laughed in delight to see twin spots of color suffuse her cheeks. “I knew it! You were caught with your lover, weren’t you?” He smirked outright. “I should think anyone a vast improvement on your husband. I do not judge you. And where is this man you dallied with? Does he come after you to pledge his undying love if you but run away with him?”

Elizabeth had no idea why she had some need to explain. She shook her head and bit her lip. “He’s engaged to be married. I’ll not see him come rescue me, to be sure.”

“The knave deceived you?” James appeared outraged for her benefit.

“No more than I deceived myself,” Elizabeth interjected tightly. “Edward discovered I was seeing him and sent me here indefinitely until—” she abruptly stopped, unwilling to say the rest.

“Until what?” James raised a dark eyebrow. “What were you going to say?”

“Nothing, never mind all that.” Elizabeth avoided his perceptive gaze. “He sent me here to punish me for a time.”

“Did you love the man?” James stared at her intently, his silver eyes never leaving her face.

“I believe I did,” Elizabeth replied honestly and sighed depressively. “But the matter was hopeless. I’m married to Edward. We have no chance of ever being free to be together. He needs to marry as well. It is just as well it is over.”

James nodded at her words. “I believe I know exactly how that feels. Lady Isabelle was not my first choice but my king’s. Doing one’s duty isn’t always what the heart wants.”

Elizabeth regarded him curiously. “Is this hers?” She held up the braid in question.

“Yes, her name was Lenore Hampton. She was King Henry’s ward at the time. She was a foundling left in his household. She was to marry another. I was already married by then. It was quite hopeless for us, you see?”

Elizabeth smiled in commiseration at his words, hearing the melancholy in them. “Whatever happened to her?”

James frowned deeply and looked away. “I don’t know. I left court that day long ago and never returned. I suppose she married her intended and forgot about me.”

“Would you like me to try and trace her ancestry?”

Elizabeth felt compelled to discover whatever became of Lenore Hampton to ease his troubled mind if she could, her romantic nature drawn to his torment.

“I’m travelling to Yorkshire on Saturday. My grandmother has studied lineages for many years. It is a hobby of sorts of hers. She might have some information about Lenore, though I can’t be sure of it.”

“You are leaving?” The ghost became instantly distressed at her announcement, his face filled with growing displeasure. “But you cannot leave! We have too much to do! I must insist that you stay!”

Elizabeth glared at his thoughtless reaction. “My father is quite ill. I have to go home and see to him. I will be back as soon as I can. You have waited three centuries already. What is but a few more weeks?”

James nodded in reluctance. “I meant no disrespect to your father. Of course, you must go and see to his care. I am but eager to resolve this mystery.”

“What do you hope to find in the east tower room?” Elizabeth shivered despite herself.

“Whatever the castle refuses to allow me to find,” James replied bitterly. “I cannot enter the room. A force keeps me out. You can get inside. There has to be some clue of what happened to me in there.”

“Won’t the castle also deny me admittance? If you say the castle keeps you out, what is to say I will be any more successful?”

James stared at her, deliberating her question. “Only the living can enter that room. I have seen them over the centuries, but not me, never me. It is the only room I can’t enter, besides the catacombs below the castle. I believe I died in there. I went up to the tower room to see Isabelle upon my return. It is the last thing I remember.”

“Do you think she killed you?” Elizabeth swallowed hard at his darkening expression.

“I think she planned it all,” James ground out fiercely, his fists bunched at his sides, pacing furiously before her. “I think the summons from Father Creaton was just some ploy to get me back here.”

“Wait, what summons do you speak of? Who is Father Creaton?”

James explained the missive he received at court, prompting him to come home.

“The church in Tregaron still stands, though it is now a ruin,” Elizabeth told him, her eyes bright with excitement. “Perhaps we will find more clues there? The new rectory is built not far from there.”

“After three hundred years?” James shook his head sadly. “I think the ravages of time my enemy in this, my lady.”

“Nonsense, we will look there as well upon my return,” she said firmly.

“You will look alone. I cannot leave the grounds.”

Elizabeth bit her lip at his pained admission, feeling for him to be so trapped. “I shall look into it upon my return. They must have kept some records from Father Creaton’s time there.”

“Father Creaton knew me well, and my father before me. I find it hard to believe he was a part of this hoax that’s been perpetrated.”

Elizabeth hesitated at his assurances an imposter stole his life. “I know you believe this happened to you, but what if it didn’t? What if you only forgot that time in your life? What if you did die in 1564?”

“It’s all a lie, I tell you!  I think I should know better than any other!” James rolled his eyes. “I never laid one hand upon my wife after we married. Whoever sired her children wasn’t me, I assure you. Our marriage was never consummated. You think I would forget siring five children?”

Elizabeth was shocked, her eyes widening at his disclosure. “So that means—?”

“Yes,” James finished for her with a deepening frown. “Your husband isn’t the true heir to Westerleigh. That title died with me three hundred years ago.”

Elizabeth was stunned at his announcement. “Do you realize what this means?”

James glowered down at her. “I know very well what it means! Your damned husband and his ancestors are all bloody thieves! They don’t own a thing you see around you! I left no heirs! Not even a by-blow to my knowledge.”

“If Edward is not the duke, not even a Carlisle by blood,” Elizabeth murmured more to herself than to him aloud. “If he is not even a true descendent of the duke, than I cannot legally be his wife. I would be free of him.”

“It appears you have as much of a reason to find proof as I do, my lady,” James said with a fierce frown. “Perhaps you will find such in time to stop your lover from marrying another?”

Elizabeth couldn’t deny the surge of excitement she felt. The thought of freeing herself from Edward to be with Anthony, made her feel a sense of elation. To think she could actually prove his whole family was imposters and their ancestors all false made her smile with relief.

Suddenly, her smile vanished in an instant at the other realization.

“We cannot expose him as an imposter.”

“Why the bloody hell not? He’s as much a thief as his father and his father before him!”

“Do you have any idea of how discrediting Edward’s claim to Westerleigh will affect the rest of the nobility? Do you at all?” Elizabeth shook her head sadly.

James glowered down at her. “Why should I care?”

“Think of all those who married a Carlisle relation in the last three hundred years? It would take years to figure out who is entitled to what under English law. Children would become illegitimate as a result. People would lose their homes possibly. Do you even realize what this would do to all of these families? Is that even fair to them?” Elizabeth stared up at him, seeing him struggle with his volatile emotions. “Of course, you didn’t think of them at all, only yourself. This could ruin the lives of many people who are innocent of what was done to you.”

“What if doing that one thing is the only way to free me from this place?” James stared at her coldly, daring her to argue with him further. “I have no choice if it is!”

“I’ll not help you destroy innocents,” Elizabeth said stubbornly. “As much as I would like to be free of Edward, I’ll not do it.”

“You will help me, I say!” James glared down at her.

She heard Annie calling to her. “We will talk more of this later when you see reason and calm down. Think on it very hard, for once done, this could destroy many lives.” She placed the braid on the table next to the chair and he disappeared from her sight.

Elizabeth waited a moment to gather her wits before leaving the sitting room, astounded by her lengthy conversation with James Carlisle’s ghost. She stepped to where he had stood only seconds before and felt a cold shiver as she came within close proximity of the ghost. The sensation wasn’t lost upon her, a warm flush stealing up her cheeks.

A shudder passed through her at once, gasping as a dull throbbing ache formed in her middle. Her heart fluttered wildly, her lips parting in surprise. The cold shivers of delight that went up her spine made her stiffen, her nipples going acutely taut.

Elizabeth found her composure, realizing she accidentally went through him to grasp the door handle beyond. “I didn’t think you were still standing there.”

James smiled at her flushed countenance, his silver eyes filled with sudden desire. The woman had no idea she just joined her life force to his. They had so briefly coupled in those few seconds before she walked right through him.

  “I wouldn’t leave you now for the world, my lady,” James said softly next to her ear as he leaned near. “I think I shall ignore your rules. I will come to you tonight. You are stubborn, my lady, but your body is not. You want this as much as I. Until tonight, Lady Westerleigh, I bid you fond adieu.”

And he quit the room, walking passed her discussing what she would wear to dinner with her maid. He became a vapor and swirled through the keyhole and disappeared.

Chapter Seven

 

Elizabeth slept deeply, curled upon her side in the bed. The fire was nearly banked in the hearth. Several logs floated through the air into the fireplace. It crackled at first before a roaring fire filled the room with warmth. 

Elizabeth was unaware of the blankets rustling at her feet. A shape emerged under her sheets to hover over her body. She moaned softly in her sleep, her long sable curls unbound and tangled around her face. Her head rolled upon the pillows, a slight frown between her delicate brows.

Her fingers clenched at her sides and dug into the sheets. Her silk nightdress was pulled up by an unseen hand to reveal her lush nudity beneath. Gooseflesh spread over her as ghostly hands stroked her warm sleeping flesh.

Her full lips opened in delight as a cold pressure laved hungrily against them, urging them apart. Her lips moved under an unseen kiss, drowning in a pit of sensation.

Her round full breasts swelled as invisible hands adored their size and shape, pulling at her tightening coral-tipped nipples. The coolness spread over her body in delicious waves. An icy tingling sensation slid down to her belly and spread as icy feathery kisses moved along the inside of her thighs.

A fierce desire invaded her sleeping subconscious as that same coldness spread down to her womanhood, filling her to her very center with uncontrollable desire. Her shapely knees opened of their own accord, her legs spilling apart in welcome. Her slim hips arched off of the bed to receive the acute pleasure that attacked her sleeping body.

For a long time the pressure continued to engage her womanhood with slow icy strokes until at last, she went stiff, her body shaking as she came to a shuddering climax, her body’s fluids dampening the sheets between her legs with a warm spurt.

James lifted his head from her fragrant womanhood with an appreciative sigh, blowing softly against her heated flesh to hear her moan aloud. The cold air splashed over her quivering flesh, inflaming her anew.

His roving finger hovered at and stroked her womanly flesh slowly, tickling her to quivering delight. His tongue flicked furiously at her stiffening bead of desire. He felt her body moisten with readiness and longed to be of the flesh to join his body to hers.

His dark head was now buried within her womanly center. He explored her to the fullest with a hunger he could not recall feeling in three centuries for another. She met the cold stabbing pressure of his invading tongue, undulating under his lustful ministrations.

James barely felt the obstructive cleft of her maidenhead with his thrusting finger, raising his head to stare down at her in wonder. The fact the woman was still an innocent was not lost upon him.

The mattress soon sunk beneath her body as his force moved over her to hover between her thighs. He entered her life force gently, making her body arch to accept the sudden fullness fluttering within her. Soft moans escaped her lips. A fine sheen of perspiration formed upon her brow.

The shape that rose and fell over her was outlined by the sheet over their bodies, revealing the taut shape of James buttocks. He reared back and forth slowly, savoring the feel of her.

He delved within her with harsh cries of satisfaction, murmuring to her softly, telling her of how she pleased him. He growled low to feel the warm pull of her body in answer to his.

James moved with amazing speed, plumbing her inner core with harsh, ragged gasps, the sheet outlining the shape of his big body driving deeply within hers. With a cry of carnal pleasure, James felt her living essence merge with his at last.

It filled him with such heady warmth he cried out harshly. His silver eyes were aglow as he stared down into her lovely face, seeing the passion reflected in those flushed delicate features.

He lay deeply within her pliable warmth, aware that her mattress springs began to squeak from the force of his otherworldly possession, unable to control the fierce tempest raging within him.

Elizabeth was taking his unseen fullness deeply within her. She was grasping at thin air, hugging his invisible form to her with her knees, her soft gasps growing more ragged by the moment.

James slid his hands along her long ivory legs, raising them around his lean hips as he rocked against her so hard, he slid right through her to mesh with the mattress underneath her. He could never recall a carnal encounter that gave him such intense pleasure before this moment.

Elizabeth’s essence was more intoxicating than any he ever felt before. He was loath to leave her. He longed to be of the flesh at that moment, to take her as a mortal man might.

It was a desire that had some merit, for in only one month’s time, he would walk in the flesh on All Hallow’s Eve. The image of her writhing beneath his flesh and blood form, of taking his hard sex within her was so maddening, he nearly wept aloud in pleasure.

Elizabeth slept with the ease of the living as James brought them both to pleasure, meeting her glorious essence over and over again in the night. He felt her tightening around him with a harsh cry some time later.

He slammed deeply within her at the last, the headboard rapping lightly against the wall. Her soft gasps intensified as the hot curling heat enveloped them both. The incredible fluttering filled him with such heat, James cried out, his head thrown back in delight.

Her deep blue eyes flew open at the last. He stared into them, knowing she couldn’t see him, her look going through him before her lids fluttered closed. She fell back against the pillows still deeply asleep.

James concentrated when he could summon the strength. He gently eased down her nightgown. His eyes traced the glorious perfection of her body with lingering appreciation before he covered her up at last.

He eased up the sheets with merely a look and tucked her blankets around her once more.

Elizabeth was beautiful and incredibly desirable. He couldn’t resist coming to her bed after weeks of wanting her, watching her at her bath, seeing her in all manner of undress.

He knew she wouldn’t appreciate it if she was aware of his coming to her again, smiling to think of her indignant rage if she discovered it.

He knew there was little chance of that.

Tomorrow when she woke up she would remember nothing of this night, as if all were a dream, its fragments having no meaning to her. She would never question the sensitivity of her breasts and the slight soreness of her womanhood, attributing all to her woman’s bodily changes.

James slid away from her side as he heard her deep even breathing. He looked down at her with a tender expression, a ghostly hand reaching out to stroke her smooth, unblemished cheek. She shivered under his touch.

He turned away from the bed reluctantly. He left the room as silently as he entered, becoming a puff of vapor that disappeared through the keyhole to the hall beyond.

~ ~ ~

Elizabeth stretched comfortably under the covers with a long sigh, sluggish to rise and feeling a delicious languor stealing over her. It was early. Annie had yet to arrive with her breakfast tray. She snuggled deeper under the blankets, marveling at how wondrous she felt.

Elizabeth was never deemed a morning person. She didn’t feel awake before imbibing at least two cups of tea upon rising. She thought it odd she woke in such high spirits every morning the last four days, attributing it to the comfortable bed and country air.

Elizabeth couldn’t see James lounging at the end of her bed, regarding her with an amused grin to see her stretching like a satisfied cat before him. She snuggled back down into her pillows, a slight smile playing about her lips. She went back to sleep with the ease of a child.

“You should always wear that contented look about you, Elizabeth,” James said softly, his silver eyes smoky with remembrance of last night as they traced her lovely face. “And while you are here with me, you always shall, my lady.”

James stood suddenly and moved away from her, hearing the soft tread of her maid at the end of the hallway outside the door. He heard the faint rattle of a teaspoon, the slight clatter of a saucer under a cup. The smell of poached eggs and pork sausage met his appreciative senses before he drifted away under the gap in the door.

~ ~ ~

Elizabeth bathed at her leisure, spoiling herself with perfumed soap while humming under her breath. She later dressed in a slim-fitting blue velvet gown trimmed in soft blonde lace. She wore a dreamy expression as Annie styled her hair, urging her malleable sable curls into a fashionable coif.

She selected a diamond and blue topaz necklace with matching earrings, her eyes a deeper shade of blue than ever before, her face flushed a healthy pink. Her full pink lips were slightly swollen, as if stung by a bee. She hummed that same tune under her breath unconsciously, making Annie eye her strangely.

“Are you sure you’re feeling alright, Your Ladyship?” The maid felt her forehead in concern, never seeing her mistress so content upon rising. “Ye look a wee bit flushed again this morn, my lady.”

“I feel simply marvelous, Annie,” Elizabeth said with a wide happy smile as she met her eyes in the mirror. “Perhaps it’s the fortifying country air. They say it does a body wonders after living in the city for so long.”

“I woke feeling tired all week,” her maid grumbled in a good-natured tone. “The servant’s quarters here aren’t nearly as comfortable as back home. My bed has an awful lump in it and the floors are drafty.”

“How are you getting on with the servants here?” Elizabeth touched cologne to her wrists and neck.

“Well enough, I s’pose,” Annie replied shortly. “They all stay as thick as thieves, to be sure. You’d think they were hiding something the way they always whisper and stop talking when I enter the room.”

“Maybe you are only imagining it?”

Annie frowned uncertainly, biting her lip. “I heard from Miss Weathers. She wrote to me. She got a position in Leeds. She’s quite happy. She is a companion to a young girl. She asked me to thank you for the reference.”

“Annie, I know something is troubling you. What is it?” Elizabeth stared at her maid of five years, seeing her discontent and knowing the probable cause of it. She wore her loneliness for all to see.

“I hate to bother you with it, M’lady.”

“You are not bothering me at all. Tell me what it is that is making you so unhappy.”

“I miss my family,” the maid disclosed softly, her lower lip quivering. “I miss my friends. I wonder how long His Lordship means to keep us here.”

“I can drop you in London before going on to Yorkshire,” Elizabeth offered with a smile. “I can retrieve you upon my return to Westerleigh. Would you like that?”

“And what will ye do without a ladies maid at Camden Downs?” Annie shook her head emphatically. “It wouldn’t be proper, M’lady. Your mother might tell His Lordship I abandoned ye. He could dismiss me if he learned of it.”

“I can use Mama’s maid. It is no trouble, I assure you. I’m more than capable of doing my own hair and dressing myself if I have to. I must insist you go spend time with your family as well. We may be here for some time, Annie. I’d not see you so unhappy. If you worry about Mama saying anything to His Lordship, I will swear her to secrecy. There, you see? You need not worry. Go and enjoy yourself.”

Annie smiled in relief. “If you’re sure it’s alright, M’lady?”

“I will be fine,” Elizabeth asserted firmly. “I know you miss your people. I miss mine too.”

Annie regarded her knowingly. “Do ye miss Mr. Wakefield too?”

Elizabeth frowned slightly, for she hadn’t thought of Anthony in weeks. “I ended it with Mr. Wakefield quite badly before we left London. For all I know he is married by now.”

“Mr. Wakefield loves you, M’lady,” the maid replied stoutly. “He’ll not marry another. He waits for you. I’m certain of it.”

“I wish I could be as convinced as you, Annie,” Elizabeth said softly, looking away, feeling a pang of sadness. To think of how much she wished for things to be different only created more heartache. “It does no good to dwell upon it now. Anthony deserves to be happy too. We were foolish to think Edward wouldn’t make trouble.”

“Do you want me to get word to him while I’m in London, M’lady? I could tell him where you are. He could write to you. You could explain everything to him.”

Elizabeth sighed and shook her head, eyeing her maid sternly. “You are not to contact Mr. Wakefield, Annie. He has to go on with his life. Knowing Anthony, he would only come here and try to convince me otherwise. And what of Miss Fennimore? No, you will say nothing.”

The maid nodded and agreed as she collected the breakfast tray and left the room. James stood there and listened to all of it with a deepening frown, knowing who this Wakefield person was to Elizabeth. He felt a possessive surge of jealousy within him.

James once accused her of having been caught with a lover to be exiled to Westerleigh, a fact she didn’t begin to deny. But now he knew differently. She never went to bed with this Wakefield character she claimed to love so desperately.

Elizabeth was a virgin, a fact that made him shake his head in disgust to think of his descendant’s inexcusable failure in that respect.

Elizabeth never stood up to her cowardly husband to defend herself of his accusations. She was woefully naïve of men too. What sort of character was a man who pursued a married woman as Wakefield had? James was certain Anthony Wakefield was a scoundrel and a complete bounder by his actions.

BOOK: The Ghost Who Loved Me
5.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

An Armchair Traveller's History of Apulia by Seward, Desmond, Mountgarret, Susan
Star Crossed by Alisha Watts
Buried Fire by Jonathan Stroud
Warrior's Valor by Gun Brooke
Holster by Philip Allen Green
Paw Prints in the Moonlight by Denis O'Connor